Thursday, December 16, 2010

I haven't forgotten the purpose or effect of the live bootleg. Growing up as a musical obsessive, I indulged in my passion for collecting such things. There was some satisfaction in developing an understanding of a group's live stage show: the costumes, lighting rig and stage set up, the setlists (and its occasionally odd inclusions) and the gig itself. Many of those shows were remarkable and simply by name-dropping the venue, city and the year, it was possible to conjure up all those references. You could insist that the London's Earls Court 1977 show had the most impressive setlist or the Osaka's Kosei Nenkin Kaikan 1976 afternoon show had the most electrifying atmosphere. I would gladly agree with you, adding that I would have done anything to be at the London's Rainbow Theatre in 1974.

I think I was attracted to bootlegs because I so desperately wanted to be there. I wanted to be pushed up against the railing, breathless with friends and fans alike. I always seemed to suffer with an eternal frustration that I had missed it all. My annoyance was further exacerbated by the fact that my father was in the UK for every year of the 1970s, with exception to 1978. He had the opportunity to attend such events, to be squished and suffocated in the many musical haunts of my phantom heyday, but he did not care for pop music. Operas from the mid-1830s were more his bag. So I had to be satisfied with these recordings and those momentary discussions with friends who felt the same way.

The story doesn't end there, oddly enough. I had the opportunity to rectify my annoyance. I had the chance to attend a gig that I never thought would happen, in a place I never thought I'd be. The idea of seeing Roxette perform live had become a complete impossibility to me. Marie had been so unwell and Per said that they would never collaborate again. I remember what disappointment I felt, reading their Wiki. But I would continue to listen to my collection of their early T&A demos, typically after band practice. I was fascinated with the way Per would structure his songs. I would think about his lyricism and how frequently his heart would be run over by a runaway train. I would compel my friends to listen too, frequently commissioning covers of (I Could Never) Give You Up and I Do Believe. We would always laugh about it, but I loved it, all the same.

A crowd, awaiting Roxette in Skanderborg

I would keep up to date by reading the Daily Roxette. There would be a slight murmur of activity and I would typically feel extremely resentful that I could not in be Stockholm to witness Roxette related events. Perhaps the worst thing was when Per performed in London to promote his Party Crasher album. Going to London is a reasonably viable thing for an Australian to do, after all, it has become a national pass time to haunt the hostels of Paddington. It was additionally painful because I was actually quite fond of that album, not in a way that I would bully my friends to record covers from it, but it was really very, very good.

The activity of the Daily Roxette seemed to increase. Progressively, they started to report news that Marie and Per were talking again. They had performed for the Prince and Princess of Sweden. They were rehearsing for a tour. A TOUR?? Surely not! It had been nine years since Per and Marie had embarked upon such a venture, surely it was not possible. It was a coincidence that their four tour dates miraculously coincided with my brother Andrew and I being in Europe. I remember sitting in his room, discussing the prospect of going to Sundsvall or Anderstorp. How could we possibly get to the north of Sweden? How could we find accommodation when the two hostels and four hotels that served the town appeared to be completely booked out? My other brother Tomy said it could not be possible, but Andrew was determined that we make it happen.

The plan was this: we would board a Ryan Air flight from Brussells Charleroi to Stockholm Skavsta, where would would board a Flygbussarna bus that would take us to Stockholm Central Station. From there, we would board a sleeper train, where we would doze on beds suspended ten feet in the air and disembark at Sundsvall at approximately 4am. Dizzy from glee and exhaustion, we would roll our bags across town and up a mountain to our hotel, which by-the-by greatly resembled Monash Clayton. Upon our 8am arrival, we would watch the Nanny, nap and generally recoup in anticipation for Roxette, where we would have to take a bus to Norrporten Arena. I remember playing Look Sharp! loudly before we left, but it was too surreal to even contemplate what was about to go down. I knew I had to bootleg the show, for it was the only way I could be sure that it ever really happened.

Roxette in Sundsvall, El-Cam

I spent the largest chunk of my travel diary attempting to describe every detail of that performance. How we shrieked upon the introductory chords of Joyride, how we swooned upon hearing Silver Blue, how we sang with Per and Marie. Loudly. In real time. I described the crowd, the moderately raucous South American fans causing a scene down the front and the enterprising bleach-blonde ladyfolk who would push in by grinding up against unsuspecting men. I recalled about how we made friends with the people around us, a family, a couple, the two brothers. I told them how Tomy saw Per a number of years ago, it was his first ever gig. He was so incredibly proud to even be in attendance, but then his pride faltered when he realised his high-school chums were Per's support act.

I smile when I think of seeing Roxette live. It was a surreal experience, a truly perfect evening. I have to explain to those who hear the story that I did not go just to see Roxette, there were other things too. European things. Interlaken, record shops and the Pet Shop Boys. The unfortunate irony of it is that as much as I loved that experience, I know that I could never appreciate it as I would a 1974 bootleg. Perhaps that is something do with my feelings of possibility and impossibility, reality and the nature of imagination. Could anything be as great as a temporal impossibility? I can never really be sure. I will never know if the gig could have taken on that mythical dimension, as I will never know the effect of hearing my bootleg of that night. I lost the show, without ever hearing it, when I dropped my iRiver on a hard-tiled floor in Rome.

Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Swedish Pop Podcast #27
Mando Diao - Gloria
Lykke Li - Get Some
Hell on Wheels - The Soda
Corduroy Utd - Little Elvis
Hardy Nilsson - Hela Hjärtat Mitt
Roxette - Fingertips (MTV Unplugged)
Ace of Base - Lucky Love (Acoustic Version)
Acid House King - Are We Lovers or Are We Friends?
The Legends - He Knows the Sun
The Tough Alliance - Silly Crimes

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